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Assisted Living Chef Awarded for Serving Food for Thought

Jeff Anderson
By Jeff AndersonApril 11, 2013
Food Lecture at Assisted Living

Food Lecture at Assisted Living

Chef Kirk Brooks of Atria Senior Living in Tuscon, Arizona recently received an award for innovation from the International Council for Active Aging that recognizes his efforts developing and leading an acclaimed culinary education program for seniors at the assisted living community where he cooks.

Atria Senior Living is well known for its focus on delivering residents a fine culinary experience, but Chef Kirk Brooks of Atria Campana del Rio goes above and beyond the call of duty. He not only serves residents a wide array of delicious meals, from old American favorites such as spaghetti and meatballs, to more sophisticated fare such as grilled salmon, but also gives a monthly lecture called Food for Thought where he draws on 25 years of culinary experience and shares the fine his passion for food and the finer cooking with the community’s residents. “You can never stop learning about food and new trends coming out. That’s one of those things I’ve tried to do here in my community is keep our residents interested in food trends and what’s going on at the same time.”

Sharing Passion for Food with Seniors

Chef Brooks explains that Food for Thought has a number of goals:

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“When I designed the series, I had a few objectives in mind. I wanted to create a fun and interactive culinary learning experience for our residents. I also wanted to introduce our residents to the flavors of the Tucson area by bringing in local vendors specializing in organic produce, olive oils, and chocolates for cooking demonstrations. Finally, I wanted to guide residents through a variety of cooking topics, including special preparation techniques, tips for exploring new styles of cuisine, and the nutritional benefits of choosing healthier ingredients.”

Chef Brooks explains that a great deal of planning and efforts goes into making each lecture successful, and the topics are based on resident input, “I solicit regular feedback from our residents on what topics they would be interested in learning about throughout the year. Then, I organize the calendar incorporating the residents’ feedback as well as any topics and trends that I feel might ‘wow’ them.”

Chef Brooks and the other staff at his community also work hard to make sure that the always popular lecture is accessible to as many residents as possible: “The classes are held in an area that is wheelchair accessible and large enough to accommodate residents using walkers as well. I also have all the ingredients prepared in advance for use. For example, when I hosted the gingerbread house decorating class, I had all the candies unwrapped and in individual cups along with icing in small bowls and small spoons to make the application easier. It is a little extra preparation but it really helps in the class and encourages participation from anyone interested.”

Turning Seniors into Foodies

Chef Brooks not only leads engaging lectures himself, but brings in guest lecturers who are experts in their field to deliver an experience that is both educational, and highly entertaining. Topics at Chef Brook’s lectures have included:

  • Coffee
  • Olive oil
  • Chocolate
  • Beef
  • Nuts
  • Kitchen Confidential (Chef Brooks reveals the inner workings of a commercial kitchen)
  • Ice carving
  • Olive oil

Food for Thought has become one of the most popular activities at Atria Campana del Rio. Chef Brooks says, “The workshop series has progressed very well with attendance increasing from just 20 residents from its inception to being one of the most well attended programs.” But these lectures have not only won resident’s hearts, they have also helped Chef Brooks find wider recognition. He was recently given an award by International Council for Active Aging award for innovation. The award recognizes individuals who help keep seniors active, involved, and engaged in the world at large, which Chef Brooks has no doubt done through Food for Thought lecture series.

This short video highlights Chef Brooks’ accomplishments and gives a flavor for how enjoyable the lectures are for the residents at the community:

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